Havergal Brian - The Tigers | Testament SBT31496

Havergal Brian - The Tigers

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Label: Testament

Cat No: SBT31496

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 3

Genre: Opera

Release Date: 15th December 2014



BBC Symphony Orchestra
BBC Singers


Lionel Friend


Brian, Havergal

The Tigers


BBC Symphony Orchestra
BBC Singers


Lionel Friend


Testament is proud to present the first CD release of Havergal Brianís opera The Tigers (composed 1917Ė19, orchestrated 1928Ė29), from its BBC Radio 3 studio premiere performance recorded in May 1983. Lionel Friend conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers, together with a huge cast of some of the finest British soloists of the day. The original performance was enabled by the Havergal Brian Societyís rediscovery of the full score, lost since WW2, and this release is issued with the Societyís generous support.

The first of Brianís five operas, The Tigers is by far his most  original in conception and execution. It opens on a rich and colourful panoply of Hampstead Heath Bank Holiday fun, but it is August 1914, and a poster announces that war is declared and every man under seventy-five is wanted. The main action then goes on to chronicle the misadventures in training of Brianís Dadís Army-style Ďancient regimentí The Tigers Ė drawn from his own brief experience as a WW1 volunteer in the Honourable Artillery Company (he was invalided out, due to flat feet[!], before he could see action in the trenches).

The Tigersí thread of comic plot and guying of English social pretensions and military protocol have some operatic precedent in Gilbert & Sullivan, but its overall air of dreamlike inconsequence is more in line with Lewis Carroll. It would be equally hard to find any real operatic successor to The Tigers; later Ďantiwarí operas like Wozzeck, Kurkaís Good Soldier Schweik, or Zimmermannís Die Soldaten are infinitely more savage and hard-edged. Rather the farcical, chaotic (though occasionally nightmarish) mise-en-scŤne of The Tigers seems again to point outside opera, to The Goons or Monty Python. Itís easy to imagine John Cleese & Co. bungling the warnings about Act IIIís Zeppelin attack (which never arrives). But on the other hand, knockabout comedy has no place in the haunting, visionary dream ballets which open that same third Act.

In purely musical terms, there is no parallel in British music of the time for The Tigersí brilliantly quirky, hyperactive sound-world and innovatory instrumental resources, ahead in one notable instance of any European contemporary. To match its sheer virtuosity one needs look to Richard Strauss or even Franz Schreker, for the kind of sensuous, iridescent sheen of sonorities with which Brianís huge orchestral forces occasionally drench his hapless chocolate soldiers.

Issued with a full libretto, prefaces from original BBC producer Elaine Padmore and conductor Lionel Friend, and copious documentation by the late Havergal Brian expert Malcolm MacDonald, The Tigers is unmissable for any 20th-century opera or British music enthusiast.

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